(GMU coach Jim Larranaga risks Phil Mushnick’s ire by reinacting that stupid Nike ad and playing Onyx’s “Slam” at high volume)
If the pain of losing to George Mason weren’t enough for Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, he now has a summation from his best pal, the Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs to go with his Monday morning coffee.
If you’re going to whip a thoroughbred team to the Final Four, it’s really helpful – maybe even required – to have two jockeys. UConn had Marcus Williams.
Although you wouldn’t have known it by this 86-84 loss, UConn had more than enough big guys to get the job done. It didn’t have enough little guys.
“The first thing my son Jay [who went to Bowling Green and now plays in Italy] had said to me was Marcus Williams is the key to the game,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “He is the head. If you cut off the head, the body will die. I asked him if he had any suggestions. He said, `No, you’re the coach. You figure it out.’”
The column that most everyone figured would be written – if/when the Huskies had fallen in an upset of historic proportion – was that Rudy Gay disappeared when it mattered most.
Gay didn’t disappear. He was terrific in a loss that may have shocked a nation, but shouldn’t have shocked folks in Connecticut. Surprised? Sure. Shocked? Nope.
Don’t get this wrong. UConn was a really good team this season. Good enough for it to take a long-term shortcoming and a short-term collapse by the UConn longs to get beat. Yet when you add those two problems to the unrestrained joy that an underdog can play with – sans the weight of great expectations – well, you get NCAA Tournament history.
“The game takes instinct and takes a couple of guys to create plays,” Calhoun said. “We have one who does it as well as anybody. There are guys who can rebound and there are guys who can make shots, but they are not creative to make other people better at times.
“What Mason had is three guys – all the time – who can go by you. Three guys who could make threes, but most importantly beyond the shooting aspect, they could create situations for their big guys. We got by sometimes, despite the inability to transport the ball to better situations, because we were so unselfish. We do have talent, but it’s jammed into two positions. They wore Marcus down. No kid should have to handle the ball that many times in a game.”